Editing With Roald Dahl

When I was a kid I thought The Witches was the most perfect book ever written. I’m scared to revisit it now in case I found something wrong with it — which I inevitably would, so I won’t.

However, Publishers Weekly has an interesting piece after a conversation with the editor who worked on The Witches with Roald Dahl. It’s a good read in itself, for anyone interested in the process of story creation.

Here are some points I have taken away from the master of gruesome tales for kids:

  1. When editing don’t lose sight of how prose will sound when read aloud
  2. In a story featuring both adults and children, the children should come up with the bright ideas to get them all out of strife. This is what makes a story for children.
  3. If you’re going to write a story full of mean [women] then you should feature an especially kind [woman] to offset.
  4. Think of your audience. Bugger everyone else.


Create In The Dark, Edit In Harsh Light?

Darkness triggers a chain of interrelated processes, including a cognitive processing style, which is beneficial to creativity…But they also gave [subjects] four logic problems that required a great deal of analytical thinking. This time the researchers found that while creativity thrived in the dark, careful reasoning flourished in the light.

Why Creativity Thrives In The Dark, Fast Company

Excellent Advice From Shaun Tan

…for those of us both writing and illustrating our own books. This conversation between Neil Gaiman and Shaun Tan was published a while ago, and has helped me edit my own work:

I usually refine the text last, partly because pictures are harder to do so it’s easier to edit words – I use text as grout in between the tiles of the pictures. I always overwrite, really awful, long bits of script and then I trim it down to the bare bones and then add a little bit to colour it in. At the end of all of my stories I test for wordless comprehension. So I remove the text and see if it works by itself. And if it does I feel that that’s a successful story. I don’t know if that’s an important principle but it’s helped me structure things.